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January 11th, 2013
03:40 PM ET

Hobby Lobby finds way around $1.3-million-a-day Obamacare hit - for now

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor

Washington (CNN) - By Friday, Hobby Lobby would have racked up $14.3 million in fines from the Internal Revenue Service for bucking Obamacare. But in keeping with the great American tax tradition, they may have found a loophole.

The company is facing $1.3 million a day in fines for each day it chooses not to comply with a piece of the Affordable Care Act that was set to trigger for them on January 1. The craft store chain announced in December that, because of religious objections, they would face the fines for not providing certain types of birth control through their company health insurance.

The penalty was set to go into effect on the day the company's new health care plan went into effect for the year.

Peter M. Dobelbower, general counsel for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. said in a statement released through the Becket Fund that, "Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months."

The statement continued that "Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties."

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Last month Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected the company's appeal for a temporary relief from the steep fines while their case made its way through the lower courts.

Hobby Lobby announced a day after the ruling that it "will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."

In September, Hobby Lobby and affiliate Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, sued the federal government for violating their owners' religious freedom and ability to freely exercise their religion.

The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. As of August 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, requires employer-provided health care plans to provide "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation and a narrow exemption was added for nonprofit religious employers whose employees "primarily share its religious tenets" and who "primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets."

The Internal Revenue Service regulations now say that a group health care plan that "fails to comply" with the Affordable Care Act is subject to an "excise tax" of "$100 per day per individual for each day the plan does not comply with the requirement." It remains unclear how the IRS would implement and collect the excise tax.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the high court's move last month.

White House officials have long said they believe they have struck an appropriate compromise between religious exemptions and women's health. The White House has not commented specifically on the Hobby Lobby case.

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The Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain has more than 500 stores that employ 13,000 employees across 42 states, and takes in $2.6 billion in sales. It is still privately held by CEO and founder David Green and members of his family.

"The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles," a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, adding that one outgrowth of that is the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest.

MORE BACKGROUND: Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare

The Hobby Lobby case is just one of many before the courts over the religious exemption aspects of the law. The case represents by far the biggest for-profit group challenging the health care mandate.

Part of the reason Sotomayor rejected their appeal to the Supreme Court she wrote was because their case is still pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A spokesperson for the Becket Fund said on Friday a date has yet to be set for the case to be heard in the 10th Circuit.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (4,609 Responses)
  1. doofus

    Look, it's REALLY simple guys.

    Obamacare is not forcing anyone to take contraceptives. Hobby Lobby is forcing people to not. Obamacare is not forcing any religious belief on anyone. Hobby Lobby is forcing it's CEOs belief on it's employees. Obamacare is forcing freedom of choice. Hobby Lobby is forcing no choice.

    It really is just that simple.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • rjv252

      Your nickname is PERFECT!

      January 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @doofus : Obamacare is not forcing any religious belief on anyone.

      What happens to the owners of Hobby Lobby's religious beliefs? What if Obama mandated that every company in America provide a Bible to every employee? You woudn't have to read it, but it must be provided to you to make the choice to read it.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • doofus

      what happened to the employees religious belief. no one cares if the CEO believes what he believes. We care that he's forcing his religion on others. What would all you christians do if your jewish boss told you that you were no longer allowed to believe in jesus christ because they don't?

      January 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  2. rad666

    Isn't "religious liberty" what this country was founded on? One Nation Under God thingy?

    Allow them to exercise their beliefs.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • doofus

      Guess the employees don't get that freedom...

      January 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Mg

      Under god was added later.

      January 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  3. Kelcy

    Hobby Lobby has received that last of my business. There are more than enough craft stores in the US that provide health insurance to their employees without specifying what the insurance can or cannot cover. It is none of their dam business if one of their female employees uses hormones for any reason. Just as it is none of their business if one of their male employees have to use the little blue pill. And, oh by the way, probably half of all women use hormones for something other than birth control. If Hobby Lobby wants to be a church then they need to get out of the business of being a business.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • C

      NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU THINK!!!

      January 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • No longer a hobby lobby shopper

      I totally agree with you~

      January 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • doofus

      Good point! I've known a couple women who took the pill to regulate their system. It had nothing to do with birth control, though that was a nice side effect...

      January 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
  4. rjv252

    Obviously Pro-Choice is only a choice if the liberals in government tell you that you get a choice. Is that really a choice? Socialist/communist obama.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • doofus

      that made no sense what so ever

      January 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
    • You're an idiot

      That makes no sense. You always have the choice. I'm sure you're also upset that your tax dollars fund colored people's unemployment and Medicare and not just white people's.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Los

      Hobby Lobby also has a choice. Comply with Federal Law or don't be a business.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • mfox

      Yes comply like "LOS" says or go out of business. This is how you morons think. Kill 13,000 more jobs. Of course the magic money from the government will keep coming right? You people wouldn't understand economics if it sat on your face.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
    • Los

      That's how taxes work. You don't pay them, you can't be a business.

      Please teach me about economics...

      January 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  5. mfox

    don't think i've ever been to hobby lobby but i think it is time I start shopping there to support them.
    Government shouldn't be able to mandate that employers provide for contraception anyway.
    Its like my dad always said... son if you wanna smoke cigarettes your gonna have to pay for them yourself.
    Same goes here. My god people. Can't you take care of yourselves. Do we need to wipe your butts too?

    January 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • rjv252

      I like your thinking Mfox!!

      January 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
    • Susan

      What a ridiculous argument. Get a life.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
    • doofus

      Obamacare is not forcing anyone to take contraceptives. It's ensuring workers have the FREEDOM of choice. If they are religious people like their employer, they won't take them.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • TEHb

      Oh man, that’s what I have been thinking. Just could not formulate. It all comes to the big gov and lots of children who do not want to grow.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Los

      Contraceptives = Cigarettes

      You must think Obama is gonna come get your guns too...

      January 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • mfox

      Susan why don't you get a life along with your miserable liberal friends. While your at it... why don't you pay for your own Cell phone too.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
    • mfox

      You know what... perhaps it is a good idea. We definitely don't need any more dead beat liberal bleeding hearts. Give em all the contraceptives & morning after pills they can swallow.
      Weed out the herd.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • Los

      The majority of tax revenue in this country is generated in blue states. Outside of Texas, every single red state receives more in federal taxes than they pay out. Blue state taxes are being redistributed to pay for your red state bills, which your states can't afford. That's real bootstrappy of you!

      Deadbeat liberal what???

      January 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • TEHb

      Liberalism is a mental disease and should be treated. I feel safer around schizos than liberals. I have leaved in the Soviet Union during the communist rule and the comees talked and believed the same things I hear now from American people. It is shocking! Tomorrow they will start persecuting for religious believes calling it a “hate crime” for “the sake of freedom”. They have to take guns first though. The moral principles of godly people are restraining their freedoms to the point they will try to get rid of godly people inevitably. Then, they will take a real care of rich/capitalists. Well, the end is very well known.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  6. Los

    If Hobby Lobby wants to be a church, then go be a church. But you don't want to be a church, you just wanted to make some good old cash-money. You want to function in the private, for-profit arena, but also take advantage of exemptions created for non-profits, charities, etc. You shouldn't get special treatment. You want to be a business, you gotta follow the same rules everyone else who wants a business has to follow.

    I wonder if as a non-Christian, and somehow getting an exemption from having to pay the portion of taxes that fund the military (because in this fantasy land, I'm in the only religion that is actually against war), I would receive some backlash from "Real 'Merikan" Christians about not supporting troops. I'm sure the people at Hobby Lobby would agree with me that not violating my personal religious beliefs is of most importance, even though I knew perfectly well that involving myself in the private arena would lead to having to pay taxes that fund things that may violate my personal beliefs.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
  7. slw

    Just hold on a second. If a woman is working at Hobby Lobby enough to secure health coverage, she is most likely 18 or over.
    Furthermore, the morning-after pill is available over the counter to women 18 and over.

    So why exactly again is this worth the battle?

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Kelcy

      Uh....because Hobby Lobby does not want their health insurance to cover birth control pills.....despite the fact that birth control pills are used for many other female health issues other than for birth control. But the bottom line is the owner of Hobby Lobby believes that once a sperm meets an egg that it is a person and therefore anything that works to prevent uterine implantation is killing a person (that probably does not allow for IUDs either).

      January 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  8. Jt_flyer

    My kids will never enter Hobby Lobby again.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Kay

      Make sure you tell them why. Because the company refuses to pay insurance for BC, the morning after pill and abortion insurance.

      January 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Kay is an idiot.

      Truly enough said.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • doofus

      @Kay: you bet I'd tell my child why we can't go in there, and it has nothing to do with birth control, but about freedom of religion and freedom of choice. you know... that silly thing Americans love so much... FREEDOM to live our lives how we see fit, not how my boss thinks I should live my life.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • DC

      It's ok. You won't be missed. Trust me.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  9. Kay

    This is crazy. Some of you woman say you want total control over your bodies. You want to control whether you take BC, the morning after pill, or abortions. But then you say..I want the Government to force my employer to pay for these things.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Silverglass

      Yes, Kay, that is how health insurance works. My employer pays the insurance company, who pays the doctors, hospitals, etc. In 2011 I had gallbladder surgery. They paid for that, too. Is that OK with you?

      January 12, 2013 at 6:57 pm |
    • mfox

      I agree !!!! when does this farce ever stop ? They want to play ... just don't want to pay. Do what you want as an individual just don't expect everyone else to pay for it.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
    • Silverglass

      Forgot to add one important point: My paid health insurance is part of the compensation I EARN by working for my employer. If they don't want to pay it, all they have to do is pay me enough in wages to be able to buy my own health insurance. Problem solved.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  10. eleanor fitzgerald

    If we had single payer health care, or Medicare for All, corporations and/or small companies would not be involved in providing health care plans. Their religious scruples or lack of any scruples would not matter on this issue because they would not control any woman's health care decisions!. And the profiteering of health care plans and prescription drugs would be a thing of the past. The right wing corporatists will jump up and down and call it socialism or whatever other nasty name they can manufacture. I call it common sense and way overdue!

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  11. TEHb

    If abortion is a murder, then any moral or godly human being must oppose it in any possible way.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Kieth T. Maxwell

      War? Capital punishment?

      January 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • TEHb

      What else are you going to live for?

      January 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • Silverglass

      "IF" abortion is murder. And what if I don't believe it is? Why is your interpretation of this issue more important or more accurate than mine?

      January 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • Susan

      That's a pretty big "if". The US Supreme Court has said it is not. If we are talking about the so-called morning after pill that prevents implantaiton, that is definitely not abortion. It is birth control. Get your scientific and legal facts straight.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  12. Kieth T. Maxwell

    Okay then, my religion prohibits me from paying taxes....

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  13. MaryM

    hobby lobby, do you not care for your female employees? Women in the U.S. Do not buy anything from this dbag company

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
    • Ted

      Call Hobby Lobby anything you want to saying they have to do what the government says. But it's a stupid position to take because we'll see what all you neanderthals do when the government says you can't smoke, drink alcohol or eat what ever you want.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
  14. Patriot

    Neo-cons will deny birth control, but will not support the child and the mother, once pregnancy happens. What a bunch of hypocrites – just like the garbage Hobby Lobby sells.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  15. Tax Damned Churches NOW

    ALL religions are misogynistic and thus unAmerican. Put these criminals behind bars and see if their thousand-an-hour attorney Doubleblojob can get them out. If HobbitLobby gets away with this, businesses will be able to refuse to hire kneegrows based on their "religious" freedom ("the Bible says to avoid them") next.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  16. Sam

    people still shop at hobby lobby?

    January 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  17. Ash

    I am for women's right to choose, however, I am also for every person, business ( At least privately held ones) to operate however they want. You don't like it, don't buy from them. You don't like their benefits, don't work them.

    Government has got to stop being a bully!

    By the way, I don't own a gun, and never will, most likely, but I am totally against gun control. I think government itself has more crazies than outside.

    January 12, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  18. JLH

    the bottom line is your employer doesn't have too give you anything but minimum wage, and a safe work place. so if you don't like that they don't offer medical plains or vacation or holiday pay then don't work for them and stop complaning and be happy that you have a job!!!

    January 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • Silverglass

      Yes, everybody who makes $7.25 an hour and gets no paid time off at all should just stop complaining. After all, lots of people are rich and healthy, why can't you be the same way?

      That was sarcasm, in case you can't tell it from a GOP platform.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Morgan

      This kind of thinking is quite irresponsible. Instead of moving forward that is moving backwards. So you pay them minimum wage and no insurance. They don't make enough money to live let alone for emergencies. They get sick. They go to the hospital. They can't pay for the hospital. Hospital costs go to the rest of us. People like you scream about these good for nothing people that don't work that are living off of other taxpayers...or god forbid be on medicaid. Because even if they worked hard 40 hours a week.. because it's the only place hiring in their town..they are then moochers right? Right.

      How about a company instead gets responsible, Pay a wage that someone can actually live on. Give them the very basic of insurance so that if they get sick then they can go to the hospital and not ruin their lives for daring to get sick. No use a RELIGIOUS loophole when they are NOT a religious organization and only want to use it so they don't have to give their employees the very basics.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • Dan

      No you are totally wrong. They have to comply with the law. From local laws about zoning and business licenses all the way thru the state laws, up to the federal laws. And whether you or I like it so called Obamacare is the law of the land. It might have been championed by The President. It was written and approved by Congress, and it was challenged and ruled on by The Supreme Court. It is therefore a law just the same as any other. If you are against it you have a right to try and change it just the the way you can challenge any other law. Until the law is changed it remains the law of the land. Nobody has the right to dis obey the law without facing the legal consequences. I may not believe in speeding laws or seat belt use but if I get caught breaking these laws I know that I face the legal ramifications. If I were to murder someone I would expect to be punished accordingly. If I do not pay my taxes I will be fined or will lose my property. Hobby Lobby has every right to challenge this law in court should they choose. However in a free society no individual or company has the right to dis obey any law just be cause of their personal beliefs. If they choose to not comply with the law I believe this defines criminal behavior and the should not only expect to be punished but the should be punished as the law is written

      January 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
  19. MMT

    Make 'em pay the fine! It will help the US treasury. Why do they think they they should be able to give the finger to US law?

    January 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
  20. Eric

    In what alternate reality are drugs that prevent fertilization "abortion-inducing"? Hard to believe that less than 30 years ago, conservative Christians were steadfast defenders of the right to birth control. They saw anyone opposed to birth control as a "dirty Catholic", and they affirmed their support for birth control was biblically-inspired. Now, they claim their opposition to birth control is also biblically-inspired. I wonder how they reconcile that their "inspired, inerrant" Bible has completely changed its' teachings in so short a time. Of course, that assumes that they actually put some thought into their beliefs (silly me).

    January 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
    • SciGuy

      You are correct Eric; you are silly. The Bible does not specifically address birth control per se. But principles contained in the Bible lead different Christians to different strongly held convictions for themselves. The Bible is God-breathed and inerrant in the autographs of which we have over 99% accurate copies.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.